Baltimore leaders, civic and political, are tripping over one another in the rush to pucker up and kiss the feet of NAACP board chairman Julian Bond in an attempt to keep the civil rights organization's national headquarters in Baltimore.
A tip of the hat and my hearty gratitude to the politician or civic leader who will tell Bond, "Well, get to steppin', partner."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since Bond took the helm as chairman isn't your granddaddy's NAACP. Heck, it's not even your daddy's NAACP.
Gone are the days when the NAACP was truly nonpartisan and won a string of court cases that spelled the doom of segregated education long before the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision in May 1954. Gone are the days when a succession of U.S. presidents dating back to the 1920s - Democrats and Republicans - addressed the annual convention of the nation's oldest civil rights organization.
President Bush is the first chief executive in decades not to address an NAACP convention. Bond and other NAACP leaders have chided him for it, but the truth is that the fault is theirs, not the president's. Bush has no moral, civic, legal or political obligation to buy into the delusion of the Bond-led NAACP that the organization is nonpartisan.
The NAACP is to nonpartisanship what pro wrestling is to wrestling, except that pro wrestling promoters are a lot more honest about their business. Under Bond's term as board chairman, for at least the past six years, the NAACP has been blatantly pro-Democrat. When - not if - the organization's national headquarters moves to Washington, the building should have an entire floor to house the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee as well.
That would be truth in advertising. Bond, his claims that the NAACP is still nonpartisan notwithstanding, has already given us truth in speechmaking. His attacks on the Bush administration since 2001 have dragged a once-proud civil rights organization with a history of dignified public discourse down to demagoguery.
In 2000, Bond defended an "issue ad" put out by the NAACP National Voter Fund, which is technically a separate organization from the NAACP. The scurrilous ad was supposed to be about hate crimes legislation and showed a pickup truck dragging a chain. The reference was to a 1998 Texas incident in which three white racists decapitated a black man named James Byrd by dragging him behind a pickup truck. Bush was governor of Texas at the time.
Byrd's daughter did a voice-over for the ad in which she said that Bush's refusal to sign hate crimes legislation was like seeing her father killed all over again. The ad failed to mention that at least two of the men got the death penalty, a decision that Bush supported.
A year later, Bond accused Bush of appointing Cabinet members from "the Taliban wing of American politics."
Bond's clearly partisan speech at the 2004 NAACP convention is well-known. Perhaps not as well-known is a speech he gave in January of that year at a gathering of the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro Choice America.
"The right to reproductive freedom is as basic as the right to eat at a lunch counter, or to cast a vote, or the right of two human beings to get married," Bond said, according to a Chicago Tribune article by Rachel Smolkin. Bond would have been fine if he'd stopped there, but the demagogue within got the better of him.
Here's the rest of Smolkin's account of Bond's comments:
"`The enemies of choice are ever active, always eager to deny equal protection under the law,' Bond said, citing parental notification measures and prohibitions on contraception. `Their antagonism toward women exercising free agency would make the Taliban blush.'"
So there it was: another gratuitous reference to Republicans as Taliban. But with NAACP headquarters in Baltimore, Bond surely knows this state has a Republican governor who is for abortion rights and a Republican lieutenant governor who is against abortion.
Bond knows, or should know, that Georgia state Rep. Tyrone L. Brooks Sr. is a liberal Democrat who supports abortion rights but who believes parents of minors who want abortions should be notified.
I met Brooks in mid-April at a civil rights conference in North Carolina. He described himself as a "progressive," not a liberal. Whatever the term, he remembered that his "liberal" or "progressive" colleagues in the Georgia legislature, especially the women, were appalled by his position on parental notification.
But it's one thing for reasonable people to be on opposite sides of the fence about parental notification. It's quite another to paint an entire political party with the Taliban brush, as Bond did. Call it demagogic partisanship or partisan demagogy. Either way, the label fits Bond.
Under his stewardship, the NAACP is no longer an esteemed national civil rights organization. It's a national embarrassment. Isn't there one leader in this city who has the guts to say what needs to be said about an impending move of NAACP national headquarters to Washington?
That would simply be: "Goodbye and good riddance."